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Qantas L-1049 parts salvaged in Kuwait

 

The Qantas Founders Museum announced in mid-December that it has salvaged more than 30 parts of the former Qantas Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation VH-EAB Southern Horizon, which had been abandoned at Ahmed Al Jaber air base in Kuwait for 42 years, for display at the museum in Longreach, Queensland.

The recovery has occurred thanks to the initiative of volunteers from the Qantas Founders Museum (QFM) and close collaboration between Qantas, its pilots, the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) and several other supporters. Volunteers and management from the QFM, including current and retired Qantas employees, began planning the retrieval of Southern Horizon more than a year ago. HARS, which owns the aircraft, provided approval for the QFM to salvage and take ownership of recoverable parts, whereupon detailed planning began.

On 18 November a small team of volunteers including three Qantas pilots and a retired Qantas engineer arrived in Kuwait. With access allowed to Ahmed Al Jaber air base was made possible, it took two days, a crane truck, three angle-grinders, many shovel-loads and an oxy fuel cutter to recover key parts of the aircraft, including a wing tip tank, main entry door, a large section of fuselage and engine cowlings. The load was then transported to Ali Al Salem Air base, where the Royal Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force assisted the QFM in uplifting the pieces to an air base in the United Arab Emirates and from there by truck to Dubai International Airport. The items needed to be cleaned for quarantine before they were loaded into the scheduled Qantas Airbus A380 departing Dubai on 24 November to arrive in Sydney on 25 November. The parts — more than 30 of them in all, weighing almost 700kg — were unloaded and stored in Sydney.

Qantas Founders Museum CEO Tony Martin said, “The Kuwait Super Constellation project was a complicated and at times difficult project but our museum is fortunate to have received overwhelming support from various organisations to ensure the safe return of these aircraft parts to Australia. We look forward to including these significant Super Constellation aircraft parts as part of our museum display to
explain the importance of the Qantas Super Constellations”. They will be transported to Longreach for display at the QFM with the exception of the tip tank, fuselage section and entry door which will be displayed temporarily at Qantas headquarters in Sydney.

VH-EAB was built in February 1955 and delivered to Qantas in March 1955. It operated the first Super Constellation service from Brisbane to London in April 1958 and, following conversion into a freighter, the inaugural Sydney to London cargo service during 1960. It flew its last Qantas service in March 1963. several owners between March 1963 and 1976. The airframe was ultimately abandoned at Kuwait City Airport in 1976 due to a customs dispute. Acquired by Kuwait’s Ministry of Defence for training and fire-fighting drills, it was transferred to Ahmed Al Jaber air base. There the L-1049 remained largely intact for many years, until it was significantly damaged when the airport was bombed during the Gulf War in 1991. During September 2007 the wreckage was gifted to HARS by the Kuwait Ministry of Defence for display and to salvage parts.

VH-EAB at Melbourne in 1958. Credit: Qantas Heritage Collection

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